Arriving in New York, we began our search for The Rising Phoenix. In the early hour, the moon’s eerie glow slid between the tall buildings on either side of the street. Occasionally one of the bare bulbs that lined the road flickered into life, sending harsh circles streaming over the cracked asphalt below. Their irregular patterns sent sprawling shadows over everything.
We passed alleyways shrouded in darkness which sent chills crawling along my spine. I shivered, gazing nervously around us.
“This place is creepy,” Mouse said, more to herself than anyone else.
Briana slept beside me in the back while Nicole drove.
We eventually found the club. Its red-lit sign flickered tiredly, as though it, too, felt the late hour. We pulled over momentarily to take in all the information we could.
Two men stood at the door, both wearing black suits. At least one of them had a radio earpiece sitting in his ear, the wire curled behind his neck. They leaned against the walls on either side, talking.
They seemed bored and didn’t even turn their heads at the sound of the car. One stifled a yawn as a couple tottered out of the club. They ignored the men, completely absorbed in each other. They didn’t even thank them when one of the men unclasped a velvet rope hanging in their path.
The couple stumbled down the street away from us, seemingly unable to walk straight.
A decrepit yellow taxi drove lazily past us. The bouncers looked up at its approached. They waved it on when it tried to park outside the club, then leveled their gazes at us.
They wouldn’t have been able to see past the windows in this light, but they didn’t want us parked there.
“Let’s go before they come over here,” I said. “I don’t want them to see what we look like. They might not let us in tomorrow.”
Nicole put the car into gear and made a u-turn. As we drove away, I twisted in my seat to see a brunette girl, not much older than us, carrying two trash bags down the steps from the entrance.
We found a cheap hotel and managed a few hours’ sleep squashed into the small, lumpy beds. We couldn’t sleep too long—there were things we had to do before going back to The Rising Phoenix.
Mouse drove us to a drug store, where we had some photos taken. She’d found someone online who could make us IDs. They were ready to go, but they needed our pictures to finish them off.
She said it’d been hard to find someone for the job. While drivers’ licenses were easy enough to come by, not many could deal with a passport. The others would be fine with just a license, but it would seem strange for me not to have a passport, seeing as I was supposed to live in a different country.
I had to wonder how on earth she’d been able to find them. I knew she was amazing with a computer, but surely something like this should have been harder to find.
Mouse took the car to get the IDs, leaving Briana, Nicole and I to walk several blocks in search of a second-hand clothing store. Mouse left us with directions before she’d left. We needed to find clothes that wouldn’t seem out of place in the nightclub, but at the same time we needed to be careful with our money. I doubted we’d be able to find a laser tag competition every time we were running low on funds.
Nicole and I easily chose outfits for ourselves and Mouse. Briana took a bit longer. We were hard-pressed to persuade her she didn’t need heels quite so high. I picked a slightly worn black purse with a long gold-colored chain from a table piled high with old bags. It would be handy to carry anything we needed, since none of the dresses had pockets.
We returned to the hotel and I fell back into bed. They weren’t that comfortable, but they were better than the car. Mouse arrived soon after, tossing our new identification at us.
“Emilie Elizabeth Lockwood,” I said, mostly to myself. “What are your names?”
“Bianca,” Briana replied, a scowl on her face. It wasn’t hard to imagine what she thought about that.
“Nina,” Nicole said with a shrug.
“Lily,” Mouse said. I was sort of surprised she’d chosen a name starting with an L like Lorelei, her real name. Sometimes I forgot she wasn’t actually called Mouse.
Sleepy, I settled down for a nap. I wanted to be refreshed as possible before tonight. Mouse and Nicole did too, but Briana decided not to.
“I’m going for a walk.” She slipped her feet into a pair of shoes.
“Where to?” I bit my lip, waiting for the scathing declaration that it wasn’t any of my business. It didn’t come.
“Nowhere in particular,” she said, far too nicely.
She left without another word. Mouse, Nicole and I exchanged confused looks before lying down to sleep. I doubted I’d ever understand quite how Briana’s mind worked.